When Sandy Hearn graduated from high school, the idea of becoming a firefighter had never crossed her mind.
After a short stint in the banking industry, followed by a 15-year career as a flight attendant, then a personal trainer, Sandy was looking for a new challenge. As she recalls:
… one day I was just sitting there, looking through the employment pages and there was an ad for firefighters. I would've skipped past that, but there was a female in the ad and I looked at it, and I thought, wow, I didn't know that females were firefighters, I could do this.
The more she discovered about the job during the recruitment process, the more Sandy knew this was what she wanted to do. After completing the rigorous series of tests required to get into the recruit course, and then the 16-week training course itself, Sandy graduated as a recruit firefighter in 2004. As she remembers, ‘it’s such a proud moment, graduation … to put that uniform on and to have all your family and friends in the audience … it was such a wonderful moment to remember’.
Like any new job, it took time to get used to how things work and build working relationships. As Sandy remembered, ‘it is daunting at first. You’re stationed at one station and you get to know your crew, but then you might go on a standby and you turn up and don’t know anybody.’ As the years went by, things became easier and soon Sandy got to know more and more people within the organisation.
Now with 15 years on the job, Sandy tries to be that welcoming face for the new recruits, ‘I always want to try and support them’, she comments.
Sandy is still a proud member of MFB. She’s given back to the organisation in many ways, including as a peer leader, fitness leader and mentor to new recruits. As she says:
We all look out for a new recruit, regardless of gender. And that's really important. We all just want to be firefighters, and not have that label of female or male. The term is firefighter. And it's not a lady firefighter or a lady fireman, we're just firefighters. And we're just inclusive and supportive of everyone.